Louisville, KY Tornado, Mar 1890 - Louisville in Ruins

Louisville is in Ruins
Death and Devastation Are Seen All Over The Big City
Storm-Swept Almost From End To End
Immense Palaces Toppled Over Like So Many Ten-Pins
All Done In Ninety Seconds
Buildings Crushed As If They Were Eggshells
One Hundred Persons Killed
Scores and Scores of Others Torn and Mangled
Fire Added to The Horrors

Terrible Scenes Enacted At The City Hall, Which Was Wrecked While Merry Folk Were Dancing- Three Men Burned to Death- The Awful Cyclone Wiped Many Towns Almost Out of Existence and the Loss of Life in the Stricken Districts May Reach As High As Five Hundred- The Damage To Property Will Amount To Millions of Dollars- Shelter For The Homeless,

Special to the Enquirer
Louisville, March 28.- A calamity unprecedented in the history of Louisville occurred last night at 8:25 o'clock. A cyclone of unusual violence crossed the city, leaving death and destruction in it's path. The list of killed and wounded mounts into the hundreds and the loss of property mounts into the millions. All the evening a storm had been gathering and the lightning and thunder were ominous. About 8 o'clock it began to rain and the storm gradually increased in intensity. The rain changed to hail and people kept within doors. The signal service in the afternoon had predicted a cyclone, but no one thought it would strike Louisville. At 8:25 the disaster came. The heavens were black as ink; there was a deep, awful thrilling roar as the cyclone struck the southwestern portion of the city. Then the buildings crumbled like eggshells and a broad swath of destruction was the result. The path of the tornado was from Eighteenth and Maple streets northeastwardly across the city, past Seventeenth and Broadway, Sixteenth and Chestnut, Twelth (sic) and Jefferson and thence to the Union Depot at the foot of Seventh street.

Only A Minute And A Half
The worst ruin was wrought among the large and substantial structures on Market and Main streets, and it seems as if the demon of the storm did its worst when just about to leave us. The whole thing was over in a minute and a half. People living outside the track of the storm were unaware that anything unusual had happened, but where the cyclone had swept there was utter destruction, ruin and death. Great buildings crumbled like toy houses. Churches, factories, warehouses went down like cardboard. People fled in terror from death in their ruined homes.

There were agonizing screams for help. Surgeons were hastily summoned. Half a dozen fires broke out in as many different parts of the city. Meantime the cyclone departed as quickly as it came. The storm soon ceased, the moon came out, and people thronged into the streets to learn the extent of the destruction. The most terrible rumors spread apace, and unfortunately many of them were true. The gray daylight this morning revealed a scene of desolation which is sickening to behold.

No pen can describe it. Main street from Seventh to Twelfth is a ruin. So is Market, for the corresponding distance; Jefferson, from Tenth to Thirteenth; Walnut, from Thirteenth to Fifteenth; Chestnut, from Thirteenth to Seventeenth. Broadway in the neighborhood of Eighteenth and Nineteenth is filled with debris and destruction.

Even at this hour it is impossible to give an accurate list of the killed and wounded. It will take days to do that, but it is safe to say that 100 lives were lost. The loss of property on Main street is incalculable. The devastation presents a scene similar to that of Jonestown [sic] after the Conemaugh flood. Main street from Seventh to Eleventh is literally swept out of existence. The tornado struck Louisville's main thoroughfare at Eleventh and nothing escaped except two or three two-story houses which were wedged between much larger buildings, which protected them, till halfway up the square between Seventh and Eighth. Half of the square on both sides west of Seventh street escaped, but the wind swayed east of Seventh, toppled a half dozen houses on the north side and blew in the side of the Louisville Hotel. Four solid squares on both sides of the street in the very heart of the city are swept away.